There are three things you never want to turn your back on:


  • Toddlers checking out your kitchen cabinets
  • Puppies sniffing your shoes
  • Vegetable garden after it’s been rained on several days in a row

I don’t have toddlers or puppies right now, but I do have a huge garden. Last Friday morning, I couldn’t tell the plants from the weeds, and I knew if we didn’t do something, nature would reclaim the land.

So that morning, my hubby and I put on our garden gloves and mud shoes and set off to weed and hoe and all that fun stuff.

Good news: we got it done!

Bad news: it took us two days

More bad news: it was hotter than hell!

Extremely bad news: humidity was about 90%

As we worked and sweated, I realized there are a lot of non-profit fundraising lessons to learn from a garden.

See how many of these apply to you:

1. Have a plan. You don’t go out and just throw seeds on the ground. First, you choose the garden spot, then you till the soil. The better the soil, the better the garden, the better the vegetables. You decide what you want to plant, get the seeds, then put them in the ground. Nothing happens by chance. It’s all very purposeful. Your fundraising should happen the same way with everything planned out. You’ll never raise all the money you need to fully fund your programs if it happens by chance. Wildly successful fundraising follows a plan.

2. Plant at the right time. Not every seed can be planted in any given month. Some crops are cool-weather, which means they do better in the Fall. Spinach, radishes, and peas are good examples of crops that just won’t do well in the heat of the summer. You won’t see growth – instead you’ll see plants that struggle to survive and eventually wither and die. Timing is very important in fundraising. Hold events at the right time of year to get the most people there and raise the most money. Ask for donations at the right time in the cultivation of the relationship. There is absolutely a season for getting to know a donor and a season for inviting them to give.

3. Patience is critical. Every good farmer knows that seeds have a gestation period, and some sprout faster than others. But they all know this: You don’t pick the fruit the day you plant the seeds. And once you plant the seeds, you don’t keep digging them back up to check on them. Put them in the warm earth and wait for nature to do its thing. In fundraising, you shouldn’t ask someone for a gift the day you meet them. Well, I guess you can, but you won’t get much – this is why direct mail acquisition, or sending letters to people who have never given before – don’t do so well. People want to know you, like you, and trust you before they give. Learn about your donors and what they need from you before they’ll make a donation, and don’t rush it.

4. Keep the weeds out. In any garden, there are plants you want and plants you don’t. If you have good soil, weeds will sprout early and often. Stay on top of them, keeping them pulled out, and your vegetable plants will have room to grow and thrive. Think of your donor communications like a garden and keep the weeds out. Guard what your donors receive from your nonprofit. Don’t share things they don’t need to know. Share ONLY what they need to know to feel good about supporting your organization. Make sure they aren’t inundated with Save the Date cards, newsletters, and appeals all in the same week.

5. Don’t worry about crooked rows. It can be tough to plant a straight row. I’ve given up on that. Some plants do better when they’re in a smaller plot than in a long single line which doesn’t give them a chance to pollinate. And really, if your end goal is to get fresh veggies, who cares if the rows are straight? I know, this is tough for Perfectionists, but it’s a waste of time – nature likes chaos. In fundraising, things don’t always go in a straight line, either. Things don’t happen the way you plan or sponsorships require an extra step. It’s good to be able to go with the flow and not get hung up on the wrong thing.

6. Use the right tool. About an hour into weeding the garden, I realized that I wasn’t making much progress even though I’d been working really hard. I was using a spade, which is great for getting an individual weed up, but I needed to cover a lot of ground and do it quick. I switched to a cultivator rake and everything changed. Not only was it easier, but I could cover a lot of ground quickly. In fundraising, using the right tool is also a good idea. Not every fundraising strategy will work for every nonprofit. It’s important to focus on the ones that will help you reach your goals with the least effort and resources. In other words, don’t try to do a golf tournament just because the nonprofit down the street just had a good one. Do what works for YOUR nonprofit.

7. Many hands make light work. This old saying is true! The bigger the project, they more you need help. There’s no way I could tend my big garden by myself, nor could I eat everything it produces by myself. I usually give a lot away and can lots of green beans. I’ve seen lots of nonprofit folks try to plan and execute a big event by themselves, or with just one other person. It makes no sense to me to do that. Involving others is a smart move – they’ll bring fresh energy and ideas to the mix, and sometimes they have connections for new sponsors that you don’t have. When you add new folks to a committee, it also gives you a way to evaluate them as potential new Board members to see if they keep their word and get things done.

8. Pick when the fruit is ripe. I don’t like underripe vegetables – they’re hard and sometimes don’t taste right. And I don’t like them when they’re overripe and mushy either. It’s important to pick when they’re just right. That’s when they’ll taste the best. The same goes for donors. Don’t try to ask for a donation before a donor is ready and don’t cultivate them forever either. Ask when they are ready to be asked.

9. Bugs are inevitable. In my garden, we battle bugs all summer long. I prefer not to use chemical pesticides (don’t get me started!) so we fight them using a variety of natural remedies and removing them by hand (is my life exciting or what?). I’ve come to accept that bugs are just part of gardening. I wouldn’t give up the whole garden just because of a few beetles that are eating my squash. In fundraising, you will deal with challenges like naysayers on your Board, volunteers that fail you, sponsors that back out, donors who lose their job and stop giving for a while, and more. Don’t give up on your fundraising goal just because something happens that seems like it could derail your whole plan. Stay focused on your goal and keep moving forward.

10. Enjoy the bounty! It’s so fun at my house at dinner time. We say “Let’s go to the garden and see what’s for dinner.” There’s nothing better than feasting on fresh veggies that were picked less than an hour before. I love knowing where my food comes from and how it was grown. In fundraising, we don’t do a very good job of celebrating our wins. We have a successful event and raise a bunch of money, and we celebrate for about 30 seconds before we’re on to the next thing. Celebrate when things go well! You’ve worked hard, so enjoy it.

So, there are my 10 fundraising lessons from the garden. I’d love to know which one resonates the most with you.

I help a LOT of small nonprofits figure out how to raise way more money so they can change more lives.

And it’s really not that hard. It’s about getting clarity on your goals and the strategies you’ll use.

In this video, I’ll share the 6 questions I ask when I’m preparing to create a fundraising plan to fully fund an organization.

If you’d like help getting your fundraising plan together, check out my Fundraising Blueprint virtual workshop. It’s this Friday, June 26, and you’ll get everything you need to draft your own extraordinary fundraising plan.

Want a good deal? Save $20 at checkout by using this code: PLAN20


successful fundraising plan

I hear it all the time.

“We need to increase programs/build a new building/eliminate a waiting list and we’re going to need more money to do it.”

Yes, and the FIRST thing you need is a plan.

When you have a big goal you want to achieve, the best way to assure that you’ll reach it is to figure out how you’ll get there. You must lay out a well thought-out strategy to ensure your success.

You’ll never wing it or figure it out as you go. No shooting from the hip. No ‘make it up as you go.’ Your goal is too important to leave it to chance.

And yet, so many people don’t plan. They jump in too fast and try stuff without putting much thought into it, which is not too smart. They do the same things they’ve always done, then are disappointed when it doesn’t bring new results.

Here’s what happens when you operate that way:

  • You’re always behind. You’re doing things at the last minute like grant proposals and appeal letters, knowing they’re not you’re best work.
  • You’re always looking for ‘new ideas’ for fundraising that works and hoping that the next time you throw spaghetti at the wall, something will stick.
  • You never quite meet your goals, which means you don’t quite raise enough money to meet your budgetary needs.
  • You’re working ALL the time (evenings and weekends).

All that stuff leads to burnout. Yuck.


If you’re one of those people who has something BIG in the works – a huge goal for changing lives – do yourself and those your nonprofit serves a favor: PLAN for your success.

Planning is part art and part science. There are definitely things to include, like who, what, when, where, and how much.

Before you start on those practical pieces, set yourself up for success with these 8 foundations of a successful fundraising plan.


8 Foundations of a Successful Fundraising Plan

1.  Carve out time to do it right. I know you’re busy and it’s tough to find time to do anything, but you can’t afford to mess this up. Set aside enough time to do the evaluation and prep work, goal setting, and calendaring. Don’t try to rush through this. Give yourself enough time to think.

2.  Get it in writing. This is simple – if it’s not in writing, it’s not real. Seriously, it’s not a plan if it’s in your head. When your plan is written down, it’s easier to share with volunteers and Board members, and it’s easier to follow. It’s easier to evaluate your progress with a written plan. And if you’re like me, you can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday, much less how you thought you were going to raise an additional $25,000 without writing it down.

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3.  Evaluate first. Don’t just do what you’ve always done. Make decisions based on numbers and hard data, not what you feel. This means looking at your results from the past couple of years to evaluate what worked and should be repeated versus what flopped and should be dropped.

4.  Set goals first. Start with your program goals to see how much good your nonprofit will do then price it out to see what it will cost. THAT’S how much money you should aim to raise. Don’t do it backwards by just trying to see how much you can raise then figuring out how to spend it. Trust me, you’ll never raise enough money that way and you’ll never change all the lives you really want to change.

5.  Leverage your assets. Always play up your strengths. What have you got to work with? Name recognition? Large donor base? Loyal volunteers? Programs that save lives? Find a way to make the most of them when you’re raising money. If you don’t think your nonprofit has assets like those, look harder. Everyone has something. And then include something in your plan to strengthen and build your assets.

6.  Consider other community activities. Don’t plan in a vacuum. Take into consideration what’s happening in your community that can impact your fundraising, like large employers closing, new businesses coming to town, other nonprofits running large capital campaigns and so forth. These activities will impact your donors and their ability to give to you, so consider them as you plan.

7.  Plan to get out of your office. Don’t get sucked into “introverted fundraising” where you try to do everything from behind your computer. Get face to face with donors and supporters. You can raise some money from your desk, but your best chances of raising BIG bucks are when you spend time in person with your best donors.

8.   Make the numbers work. Double-check your math to make sure the strategies you choose actually add up to the 3 main goals you need to reach:

  • Total dollars you need to raise
  • Number of donors you need to renew
  • Number of new donors you need to acquire

In other words, don’t just say “we want to renew 50% of our current donors.” Note exactly which activities will accomplish that. Will you do it through the mail? Email? Phone calls? An event? Lay it all out in detail and leave nothing to chance.

And remember that everything you do is a strategy to get you to these three goals.
Paying attention to these 8 foundations will help you put together a plan that will definitely raise more money for your worthwhile mission. When you raise more money, you can change more lives. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

If you want more help in creating a plan, join me for my virtual workshop on June 26 called Fundraising Blueprint. I’ll walk you through these 8 foundations and several other steps to help you create a plan for your best year yet. Get all the details at

Board Evaluation

For many nonprofits, June is a busy month.

If your new fiscal year starts July 1, you’re spending this month wrapping up the old year and preparing for the new one.
That means approving a budget, setting fundraising goals, and reviewing program results.
For your Board, it’s time to bring on new members, maybe update the strategic plan, and accomplish one really important task that Boards sometimes overlook: self evaluation.
There is no Board Police to drop by and see how your Board is doing. There’s no one to give them a ticket for poor performance or a gold star for doing a great job.
It’s up to the Board members themselves to review their performance and determine what they need to do to improve.
Typically, it’s the Governance Committee who leads this activity, unless there isn’t a Governance Committee, in which case the Executive Committee will lead the way.
The evaluation itself doesn’t have to be complicated. Actually, the simpler, the better. A simple evaluation is more like to get done and generate ideas or information you can actually use. People tend to get bogged down in complicated activities and never complete them.
Pausing to evaluate itself gives a Board the time and space to look internally to see what they need to do better. It’s a time to reflect on what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. When done right, it’s a time for an honest conversation about areas that could be enhanced to provide a better experience for the members of the Board AND more productive leadership for the nonprofit.
When a Board doesn’t conduct a regular, annual self evaluation, it’s a breeding ground for problems and bad behavior. Issues like spotty attendance and meeting participation will go unaddressed and get worse until they turn into apathy, laziness, and boredom which is NOT what you want in your Board!

Just like a physical exam can diagnose and prevent illness, your Board’s self evaluation can keep them healthy as they lead your organization. And a healthy Board is a fun group to be part of (trust me – I know!).
The board evaluation itself can take many forms: you can have a conversation at your Board meeting, you can ask for each person’s perspective in writing, or you can create a “grade card” that you have everyone fill out.
I recommend that you have each Board member assess their own individual performance and also the performance of the Board as a whole. This gives them the chance to think about how they’ve done personally and commit to areas for improvement in the new year.

Here are 10 common areas of performance to review:

  • Basic roles and responsibilities. Does each Board member understand their job and what they’re supposed to be doing? And are they fulfilling those roles?
  • Attendance. Are they showing up for meetings? If they have to miss are they calling the Board Chair (NOT the Executive Director) ahead of time to let them know, then following up after the meeting to see what they missed?
  • New member recruitment. Is each member helping to find great new people to add to the Board, then helping to get them onboarded?
  • Knowledge of the mission and programs. Does each Board member understand the mission of the organization? Have they visited the programs in person to better comprehend their purpose and outcomes?
  •  Strategic plans. Has each Board member participated in and supported the development of strategic plans?
  • Community Ambassador. Does each Board member show up in the community as an Ambassador for the nonprofit, spreading the word and positively building up the organization?
  • Regular financial evaluation. Does each Board member make the effort to understand the financial reports and help determine fiscal policies and goals?
  • Fundraising. Does each Board member make a personal financial gift and assist in raising the money the organization needs to operate?
  • Supports the staff. Does each Board member provide support and encouragement as needed and appropriate to the nonprofit’s staff, particularly the Executive Director?
  • Executive Director evaluation. Does the Board provide an annual evaluation to the Executive Director to assess performance and set goals?

Setting aside time to review its performance is critical to the future of your Board and is very much worth the time it takes to do. Every time your Board gets better at their job, your nonprofit benefits. When your Board becomes a top-performing group that understands its job and does it well, your chances of fulfilling your organization’s mission with a fully-funded budget will skyrocket.
And, it’s a whole lot easier to recruit hot new Board members onto a highly-functioning Board.
If you want more help, there’s a complete Self Evaluation form in Board Training in a Box along with instructions for using it, plus a whole bunch of other tools your Board needs to do its job well. (

Businessman reading newspaper in front of his computer and drinking his coffee

Your donors are busy people.

Crazy busy.

They work all day and come home to this: a stack of mail to sort, dinner to cook, homework to help with, and work that they brought home to catch up on before crashing into bed.

They don’t have time to read a long donor newsletter from you.

They don’t WANT to read long newsletters from you.

Yet your donor newsletter is one of the greatest tools you have to steward your donors and build relationships.

So what do you do?

Here are 3 steps you can take to create a newsletter that your donors will actually read.
1. Plan it out. No one ever did a great job of stewarding donors at the last minute. Having a plan for your newsletter will keep you from being reactive in putting it together.  Here are 4 main things to think about when planning for your newsletter.
When do you want it to go out? Choose the frequency of your newsletter based on how often you need a touchpoint with your donors, not based on your schedule. This is about staying in touch with them, and that needs to happen often. I suggest quarterly for print and monthly for a email.
Who are you writing to? Get clear about who will receive your newsletter. Donors? Volunteers? Others? What do they know (or not know) about your nonprofit’s work? Remember that even though you think you’ve educated them about your programs, they don’t remember as much as you think they do. They aren’t in it every day like you are. Repeating something you shared 6 months ago is fine. They won’t remember.What do they care about? Talk to their hearts and their passion. Appeal to them emotionally. Giving is an emotional act, and if you want them to donate, give them a good motivation to do it.

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What do you want people to do after reading the newsletter? Be clear about your Call To Action (CTA). Should you include a reply envelope? Sign up to volunteer? Something else? Decide what you want them to do, then make sure the stories in your newsletter support that action.

What’s the best way to send it? Decide on the best delivery method, either print or email. The easiest way to decide is to ask yourself which way the donors want it. It’s all about them after all, not about your budget. NEVER decide to send your newsletter email only simply to save money. That’s the wrong reason to make the decision – it’s selfish and doesn’t take the donor’s desires into consideration.

As you create your plan, put together a production schedule that gives you plenty of time to get it written, edited, designed, and sent out. Trying to do this at the 11th hour will only stress you out, and trust me, you won’t put together a connecting, engaging newsletter when you’re stressed out. There’s a complete newsletter production schedule in the Get Fully Funded system.


2. Write what they want to read. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their newsletter is they throw it together at the last minute with information they want the donor to know or whatever pops to mind that’s “new,” and they don’t bother to make it interesting. If that’s you, it’s okay – just change how you’re doing it now that you know better.

The BEST thing you can do is to pause for a moment and put yourself in your donor’s shoes. Ask yourself “What do I care about? What would I like to hear about?” Then write THAT.

Be sure to start your newsletter with a story about a life that’s been changed by your nonprofit’s work. Tell the ‘before’ and ‘after’ version of the story (what life was like before they got help from you and after they got help from you). Put in plenty of emotion, leave out extraneous details, and include a great photo that is close enough that the reader can connect with the eyes. Keep it short in your newsletter. You can always put the rest of the story on your website along with videos or more photos. Just add a link to the website story at the bottom of the newsletter story.


3. Make it easy to read. It won’t do you ANY good to write the best, most engaging newsletter in the world if it’s all crammed up and looks hard to read. Remember – donors are busy people. They WON’T work hard to read what you’ve put together. So, use lots of white space (blank space) in your design. Make it easy to scan, using great headlines, photos, graphics, and pull-quotes.  Don’t use odd color combinations or crazy fonts. These things are a distraction, and you don’t need anything getting in the way of your donor reading your articles.

So there you have it – 3 simple steps to break through the noise and create a newsletter that donors will actually read and respond to.

If you’ve got tips or tricks that you’ve used that work for you, please share in the comments below.

I’m a big believer in passion.

Passion can take you far when you work in nonprofit.

It attracts others who are also passionate about your cause, which usually results in donations and volunteers.

But passion isn’t enough.

You need to be able to provide the leadership and management your organization needs to grow and fulfill its purpose.

Not everyone is a born leader. Nor is everyone born knowing how to manage.

But there are specific skills you can learn that will help you lead your nonprofit to success.

Here are 9 skills that you MUST master if you’re going to fulfill your mission and change the lives you’re here to change.
1. Non Profit Planning. Success doesn’t happen by accident. In order to reach your goals, you need a well thought-out plan. You need to be able to think in terms of long-term and short-term plans. In other words, plan for today, this week, this month, this year, and this decade. In your plan, be sure to include who (help you’ll need) will do what (responsibilities), what things will cost (budget), and how you’ll stay on target (accountability).

2. Public speaking (and sharing your vision). A consistent trait I see among those I consider wildly successful nonprofit founders is their ability to share their vision with others, either one-on-one or in a group. You need to be able to articulately describe the need you’re addressing in a way that moves listener’s hearts. When you confidently share about your vision and why it matters, you’ll attract supporters like moths to a flame. Passion, clarity, and confidence are key here to telling your story.

3. Recruiting help. The old saying “many hands make light work” is true. There’s no way you’ll reach your goals and see your nonprofit through to success by yourself. You have to have help. Whether it’s volunteers, interns, subcontractors, or paid staff, having others around you will help you get more done. What help do you need? Who is ideal to help you? Where will you find them? How will you set them up for success? Finding and keeping good help is critical to your nonprofit’s success.

4. Building relationships. No one wants to be “hit up” for anything. It feels manipulative. Instead, people help those they care about. What’s the difference? It’s all about the relationship. When you invest a little time in someone to get to know them, it creates trust. Build that trust, and that person will likely reciprocate in caring about you, too. Most folks get hung up when it comes to building relationships on purpose. We’re used to relationships growing naturally, and when we do it for the purpose of getting a donation, it can seem uncomfortable. As long as your intention is good, there’s nothing wrong, so don’t worry about it. Keep the best interests of the donor in mind and you won’t do anything that feels yucky.

5. Crunching numbers. You need to be able to tell your story through numbers. How many lives need your services? How many have you helped so far this year? What does it cost you to change or save a life?  Get comfy with numbers, because you must be able to confidently talk about them. You also need to be able to look at your basic financial statements and understand them. An excuse like “I’m not a numbers person” does not let you off the hook. I was pretty intimidated by numbers when I first started my nonprofit career.  One look at the budget and I would glaze over. But I forced myself to listen to the financial conversations at the Board meetings. I attended Finance Committee meetings and tried to understand. I didn’t always follow the conversation, but I usually picked up a nugget. After many months of this, I cobbled together a basic understanding of our financial statements. I’m still no numerical genius, but I know enough to explain it to a donor, and that matters.

6. Managing time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more hours in the day to get stuff done?  Between our long lists of things to do and increasing demands on our time, it’s easy to feel stretched too thin. It’s up to us to know what to focus on and to set the boundaries on what we will and won’t do. You need to learn to manage your time so that you get done what you need to get done and say “no” to the rest. Simple things can help like working in your strengths. Turn off your email. Outsource or automate everything you can. Don’t say “yes” to everyone and everything simply because you think you’re supposed to.  Guard your time – you’re the only one who can.

7. Leading people. You’re the leader and people will look to you for direction. Be ready to paint the picture of where you’re going and then motivate folks to join you for the journey. Being a good leader is about setting the pace and then inviting others to follow. It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything.

8. Delegating. You’ll never grow your nonprofit to its fullest potential on your own. You must have help. And part of building a team around you is delegating. Give people stuff to do. Explain what needs to be done and how it fits into the big picture. Give them a deadline. Then give them the support they need to get it done. Most people want to help, but if they aren’t clear about what needs to be done, they’ll stumble. Part of good delegating is giving clear directions and accountability.

9. Self care. Don’t gloss over this one! We all know we need to eat right, exercise, and get enough rest. So why don’t we do it? Why do we have an epidemic of stressed out, overweight, exhausted people? I think because we take it for granted. Here’s the bottom line: You won’t be successful if your body starts to fail you, so keep it in tip-top condition. I find that exercise not only helps my physical strength, but my mental strength, too. Find what works for you and do it. It’s all about self discipline and commitment to yourself. Value YOU as much as you value the lives your nonprofit seeks to serve.

So, there you have it- 9 skills every Founder (and Leader) needs to master. Which one resonates most with you? Leave a comment on the blog and let us know which one you need to work on most.

Are you on Pinterest?

It’s pretty easy to get lost there for hours, looking at craft projects, recipes, and funny memes.

I have several Boards there including one where I pin inspirational quotes.

Some of them move me. Others make me think. Some inspire me to do better and be better.

Here are a dozen of my favorite inspirational ones.

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Any of those speak to you? I’d love to know. Feel free to hit “reply” and share which ones resonate with you.
Want to see my whole Board of 355 quotes (and adding all the time? It’s on Pinterest at
Just for fun, I have a couple of Boards with pins that make me laugh, like this one:

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For more funnies, go to

Spending time stewarding donors’ gifts is THE most important thing you can do in fundraising. Last week, I had the honor of hosting Joe Garecht for an invitation-only webinar for our customers and clients covering the finer points of donor stewardship.  Joe gave us a LOT of great insight and ideas, and I thought I’d share a few nuggets with you.Stewardship is critical if you want to be able to keep your current donors giving (and who doesn’t?). A current donor is 5 times more likely to give than someone who hasn’t given. Most business people know that it’s cheaper to keep a current customer than to get a new one, and it’s the same in nonprofit fundraising.If your idea of stewardship is to send a newsletter containing an ask for more money, then you’ll eventually have NO donor relationships or donors. No one likes the charity who shows up every time with their hand out. We have to balance the asking with sharing and communication.Good stewardship is about treating people like the valuable resource they are. It’s important no matter how big or small your organization is to treat every donor as if they are your most important one. When you do that well, your donors will feel really good about supporting your nonprofit’s work.

You have 3 main goals with stewardship:

1. Retain. Keep donors as long as you can, even if they only make 1 gift during the year. Remember, it’s easier to keep current donors giving than to go get new ones.

2. Upgrade. Encourage them to increase the amount they give. There are two ways to raise more money: get new donors and get more money from the donors you already have. Most  people will naturally upgrade if they trust you, feel connected to your work, and feel inspired to support you.

3. Refer. Encourage them to bring other donors to you. Word of mouth is usually the best marketing for any nonprofit or business. If your current donors are telling their friends about their great experience with you, you’ll grow your donor base faster and more cost-effectively.

The better job you do with these 3 goals, the more successful you’ll be in raising money.

So what is stewardship? A steward is someone who has been entrusted with the resources of others.

Your donors give you money and it’s your job to use it wisely. Do this well, and fundraising gets easier, because you’ll build trust with your donors.


Here are 7 principles of good stewardship.

1. Stewardship is a process, not a one-time activity. You’re not done when the thank-you letter goes in the mail. You have to find ways to keep people in the know about what their gift is doing, and you need individual plans for major donors.

2. Stewardship requires communication. When a donor calls or emails, they should be your top priority – don’t make them wait. The more you talk and communicate with them, the healthier the relationship is.

3. Stewardship requires transparency. Tell them specifically what you’re doing with their gift. How is their donation making a difference? Are lives being changed? They want to know and it helps them feel good about their decision to give to you.

4. The best donors give more than just money. Value their time, their stuff, and their friends, too. They have way more to bring to the table than just financial contributions.

5. Keep the process fresh and exciting. Don’t let donors get bored. Don’t send the same dull or tired letters or newsletters. Surprise and enchant them. Give them something to talk to their friends and coworkers about.

6. Recognition is crucial.  Recognize them for the part they’re playing. Tell them how they’re the hero in your work. And honor their request if they’d like to remain anonymous.

7. Solicit sparingly, but do solicit. Be sure to share good stories and updates with them frequently so you’re not always asking. Asking 2-4 times per year is usually enough, but your mileage may vary, so do what works for your nonprofit.

Now, when the rubber meets the road, what does good stewardship look like? And does it have to take up all your time?


Here are 8 ways to steward your donors in very manageable ways.

1. Newsletters (either print or email). Staying in touch with donors is critical and a newsletter is a great way to do that. Include great content that warms their heart and is relevant to them.

2. Website. It must be interesting and regularly updated. You might include photos and video of your programs in action so donors can see what their gift is making possible.

3. Non-ask event. Also called a stewardship event, this can be a great way to share with lots of donors at once and give them an update on what’s happening in your programs.

4. Breakfast or lunch meetings. Get face-to-face with your donors and tell them what’s happening. Answer their questions and thank them personally.

5. Personal phone calls. Call them to thank them and give them an update. If they’re busy or not in your geographic area, a phone call can be a great way to steward a donor.

6. Participatory event. Invite them to get involved in an event that benefits your nonprofit, like a walk-a-thon or restaurant week. These low-risk, low-entry events can be a great way for them to take the next step with you.

7. Giving clubs.  Add them to your giving club to offer them recognition for their gift. For example, anyone who gives $1,000 or more automatically becomes part of the “President’s Club” and receives special invitations throughout the year to VIP events and activities. Make sure that whatever you promise you can easily deliver! You don’t want to disappoint donors.

8. Branded Giveaways. It might be appropriate to put your logo on an item and give to your donors. For some nonprofits, a lapel pin with the organization’s logo can make a nice gift.


The most important thing is to help your donor feel like part of the team. Set aside an hour a day to work on stewardship activities, and watch your fundraising soar